A smarter food dollar

Fall is harvest season and it pays to re-think how to shop for your food.  Here are 10 ideas that could stretch your grocery dollar.

Organic vs. conventional

Organics, if in season, are usually even cheaper than “conventional” or non-organic produce, shares Ashley Hawkins, spokesperson for Whole Foods.  However, if organics are a little out of your price range, consider buying these 12 fruit and veggies organic—that either soak up the most pesticides or are farmed using the most dangerous pesticides and fungicides.

Farmer’s markets, co-ops and CSAs oh my!

Find fresh local farmer’s markets.  Not only is your food fresh from the ground, but chances are you’ll also be getting a wider variety of produce to spice up your palate.  Not to mention your dollar is supporting the real people who make your food, not big agra-conglomerates like Monsanto.

Food co-ops are another idea that can get you fresher food for cheaper.  For a small fee or a few hours worked in the store/behind the scenes, you could get a serious discount on your weekly grocery shopping by belonging to a food co-op.

Community supported agriculture, or CSAs, are farms that allow people to buy shares in their farm.  The agreements range from a corporate type share program where you simply invest and get profits—through you get produce delivered to you, through the ability to pick your own produce. However it’s laid out, you win price- and freshness wise.  I’ve heard from meat eaters that if you get a large freezer, this can also work very well with meat and poultry agreements.

Shopping fresher with inside info

Produce is generally delivered on Friday or Tuesdays.  Find out from your local fish market, dairy stock- or produce-person when shipments are expected each week and you can make sure your kitchen has the very best nutrition. Signing up for an online flyer or for the local store’s “club” card may also get you inside info on special discounts and advanced info on seasonal promotions.

Fresh near or far?

Check the expiration dates. Usually food stores load the items that have just come in with fresher dates, in the back, hoping you’ll just grab the first thing closest to you on the shelf—with the older date.

End of aisle not cheaper

Again pay special attention to expiry dates of items spotlighted in an end of aisle display.  It’s either on special to get you into the store or buying more items, or it may even be a date about to expire.

Pick up perishibles last

Shop for dried pasta, canned and paper goods first.  Then at the end of your shop, pick up the yoghurt, ice cream, fish or salads—all your perishable goods last.  It’ll just keep them refrigerated that much longer.

Dented = OK?

No, actually.  While canned food is a great way to stock your kitchen with fast, accessible, preserved food, dents or bulges in cans can mean air has leaked in and now contains bacteria like botulism.  It may work between your eyebrows girl, but not in your food!

Bulking up to save

Buying in bulk or buying from bulk bins saves.  Sharing the cost of a bulk club type membership with a friend and even dividing bulk purchases can save hundreds of dollars.  Also, buying bulk items like flour or dried beans from a bulk bin is greener (less packaging) and cheaper.  Avoid bulk items that go rancid sooner—peanut butter, flax seeds, nuts.  Things like paper towels, toilet paper and canned goods you use are great for buying in bulk—it pays to have a shelf in the basement or in your kitchen just for bulk-bought items. And remember to save more (some stores now charge a bag fee, or give you a discount for bringing your own bags) and bring your own grocery bags.

Chop and season yourself & save

Full heads of raw broccoli costs less than broccoli florets and is healthier for you than broccoli frozen in a sauce that may be astronomical on salt/MSG.  So while it’s a few minutes longer to wash, cut and season broccoli, as an example, it’s healthier and will cost you less.  Wash cut and steam some on the weekend to add to lunches or dinners during the week.

Vegetarian protein may be cheaper

Just a thought that protein from non-meat sources are sure cheap and certainly very healthy.  According to the nutritional guideline brochure, Healthy Eating: Cheap and Easy, foods like dried or canned beans, peas and lentils can offer the same nutritional value as meat – and with less fat and a much cheaper. They also have no cholesterol and can be stored for up to a year safely.  A simple example and fav of mine is a can of Health Valley lentil soup.   Just one “No sodium” can has 280 calories, 60 mg of salt, 16 grams  of fiber and 18 grams (hmmm!) of protein.  Put that soup over brown rice, whole wheat elbow macaroni or quinoa and you’ve got yourself a hearty, inexpensive fall meal.

What’s your take--? Have any coupon or shopping tips that work for you?  Your fellow single gals are eager to hear—share!